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Fort Washita, Oklahoma

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 12

Built in 1842, this remote fort was constructed to house forces sent to quell the warring between the Plains, Choctaw and Chickasaw Native American tribes. At the onset of the American Civil War in 1861 Union troops abandoned the site, which was taken over and occupied by the Confederate forces within days and held throughout the remainder of the war. During this time the grounds housed a hospital, stables, blacksmiths, farriers, barracks, homes of officers, a commissary and guard house. At the end of the war, the Confederate army burned much of the fort, rending in it inhabitable. The structure stood abandoned for a number of years before being sold into private hands.

Charles Colbert, the new owner the property, had the least damaged barrack building remodelled into a house and moved his family into the fort. They remained at the fort for only a few days before abandoning the building in terror. When asked why his family had abandoned their new home, Charles told stories of his dogs disappearing in the night, of bumps and scrapes, things which could be heard and felt but never seen. It was more than they could take.

The home and still standing stone walls of the fort were leased to a local doctor, who soon moved into the residence with his spinster sister. Within weeks, the sister complained about odd noises, objects being moved about the rooms, and of a woman trying to strangle her as she slept. A comb she had left moments before on her dressing table would be laying the center of the dining table when she came to set the plates for breakfast. When she was in the home alone, she would see the shadow of another headless woman in a dress from the 1860s walking through the walls of the home.

The sister began to suffer from insomnia brought on by recurring dreams of suffocation. Her torment would soon reach a fever pitch culminating in a nervous breakdown. Thereafter, the doctor moved with his suffering sister away from the area.

The fort has never again been used as a private residence.

However, locals began to hear stories. Legends began to circulate about a ghost colloquially called “Aunt Jane” who roamed the grounds of old Fort Washita during nights with a full moon looking for her missing head. There were many stories surrounding “Aunt Jane” and from where the name originates; however, isolated from the rest of the many graves on the grounds are two grave markers, most of the writing worn away by time, but known to belong to “Jane” and “Husband”, whose surnames have been lost.

These stories were still in circulation and widely known thorough the local community when the fort was purchased in 1962 by the Oklahoma Historical Society.

However, there were a few original tenants still in residence.

In 1965, one of the more than two hundred graves was exhumed. To the surprise of the researchers, there were two bodies in the grave. One of a sixteen year old boy who suffered from meningitis and died many years prior. The second was that of Hispanic man more recently killed and hidden in the boy’s tomb. Both the boy and the man have since been seen around the fort. The boy has been known to “hang-around” visitors his own age, following them as they wander throughout the grounds.

In the intervening years, the Oklahoma Historical Society has worked diligently to care for the grounds, to rebuild some of the fort and preserve the remaining stone walls of the original structures. They have hosted re-enactments, scouting troups, schools and curious visitors from all over the world, but the original tenants of the fort remain. Today, visitors to Fort Washita continue to report sightings of men in Confederate dress, a headless woman wandering the fort, and disturbing cold drafts in the middle of the parade grounds on hot summer days.

Ghost, Spiritual Or Historic Stories For Pubs And Restaurants